By Dr. Amy Plankenhorn
Feline leukemia virus (FELV) was recognized as a serious infectious disease of cats in the late 1960s, and by the 1970s blood testing for the disease was widely available. Until fairly recently, FELV-related tumors were the most common cancers in cats. Fortunately, the development of safe and effective vaccines for FELV has reduced the frequency and risk for the disease in our domestic cat population. The bad news is that there are plenty of unvaccinated outdoor cats who are still spreading and carrying this incurable disease.
The decision about whether to vaccinate for FELV is based on whether a cat has any risk of exposure to an infected cat. The virus is spread through saliva, so even cats who are near unknown cats through a screen or a deck can be exposed. Many organizations recommend vaccinating all kittens with an initial series of two vaccines given 3 weeks apart, even if they are going to be indoor cats exclusively. Animal Hospital of North Asheville uses Merial Purevax FELV vaccine, which is a very high quality nonadjuvented vaccine. Your veterinarian will discuss your cat’s risk of exposure to FELV and determine whether your cat should be vaccinated.
Click this link for more information about feline leukemia virus, and important strategies for prevention of this terrible disease.